Campus takes steps to combat sexual assault

By Vivienne Henning

April is national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, with communities across the country encouraged to take up action to combat sexual assault.ej

The University, Parkland College and the Champaign-Urbana communities will be hosting a range of events in efforts to raise awareness.ej

Molly McLay, assistant director of the Women’s Resource Center,ej said that this year’s theme, ‘We Care’, aims to send a message to the community that sexual assault is not tolerated and perpetrators will be held accountable.

“We care about any sexual assault, survivor and creating a campus and community where sexual assault isn’t tolerated,” she said. “(We want our) community members to stand up and intervene when they see things that aren’t okay, and recognize consent is a really important thing to discuss and be valued.”

The Red Flag Campaign kickoff event, where red flags will be planted around the Main and Engineering Quads, is about drawing attention to red flags people see in relationships in everyday life, and learning the skills to intervene and help prevent sexual assault.EJ The event was initially postponed from March 31 due to the rain, but the Army and Air Force ROTC will be hosting the rescheduled event.ej

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Tatyana Fazlalizadeh will be a keynote speaker at Allen Hall on April 12 to talk about her campaign ‘Stop Telling Women to Smile’, which will open up discussion on street harassment and its connection to rape and sexual assault.ej

In addition to Student Senate members’ efforts encouraging students to take the ‘It’s On Us’ pledge at events, there will also be several outlets for survivors to come forward and share their stories.

One such event is ‘Take Back the Night’ on April 28, which is one of the longest standing events in the community.Ej Survivors, supporters and general members of the community march together starting at Lincoln Square Mall to campus on Green Street.ej

“The night is often associated with violence and violence against women,” McLay said. “‘Take Back the Night’ is the idea of survivors and supporters marching together to reclaim a time of day that’s been associated with violence and disempowerment, and empower themselves. (It’s a) space where survivors can share their stories and heal. It’s really an incredible experience.”

A wide array of events will be taking place throughout the month of April, and the efforts and involvement of many different resources and student organizations on campus are aiming to really send a message to the community.

“Sexual assault may be something that not everyone thinks they can relate to, but it’s very likely that you know someone who has experienced sexual assault,” McLay said. “We all have a responsibility to make a safer (community) and make sure that we all care about each other.”

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